It’s been quite a while since I’ve last posted (not the first time I’ve said that this year) but life has been crazy. Working full-time, chasing toddler, marathon training, and trying to keep the house from completely falling apart, has proven to be quite the task.
As most of you know, I am in the final weeks of training for the New York Marathon. While I hope to go back and recap some of this year’s training cycle – I really wanted to write about this particular run while it’s still fresh in my head.
When I signed up for New York, I had no idea how much hill training it would involve. Due to committing to help lead a marathon training group, my long run options were limited for most of the year (meaning that most of my long runs were FLAT). After the Chicago Marathon my commitments officially ended and I decided that a trip up to Madison would provide a nice change of scenery, hills, and a great weekend “stay-cation.” I went to UW for undergrad and Madison is where I have always felt “home.” Interestingly, the years I lived there I barely ran and I never fully took advantage of the amazing trails and paths.
We drove up on a Friday night and didn’t arrive until close to 9 pm. We were starving, so we ate a late dinner at the hotel restaurant. I was a little nervous about how my stomach would react to eating so late (I tend to have a fairly finicky GI system) but the options were limited and I really just wanted to get food in my belly and get to bed.
The first challenge of the morning was simply getting out of the hotel without waking my family at an ungodly hour. I strategically placed my clothes in the bathroom the night before (about 4 different options since the weather was unpredictable) and quickly got dressed and headed to the hotel lobby until it got light enough to head out. After waiting for about 30 minutes I stepped outside and realized my outfit choice was not the best (shorts when it was 28 degrees) so I headed back in and completely changed (adding capris and a vest) and headed out.
My plan called for 5 miles easy and 17 miles at the slower end of marathon range – slightly slower than marathon range. It was still dark (and quite chilly) when I started running so I decided to stick to the Capitol Square area where I knew there would be lots of activity from those setting up for the Farmer’s Market. Every street leading up to the Capitol was a pretty significant incline so I ran around the square and randomly started going up and down the streets to add some elevation. My watch was freaking out a little bit and not registering paces correctly (which of course started freaking me out a little bit). When I looked at my first split my time was about 30-45 seconds slower than I would have guessed based on “effort” and I started wondering how I was going to get through this run when the “easy” miles were already feeling the way that my “faster” miles were supposed to.
After about 3 miles it started getting light so I left the Capitol area and headed down State Street toward campus. At this point, I was in a really crappy mood and was convinced the whole run was going to just kill my confidence (since the “easy” miles weren’t necessarily feeling “easy”). Around mile 4 I started one of the largest climbs on campus (Bascom Hill) where no joke, college kids would take the bus up because they were too lazy to walk. The climb was tough. I was still in a bad mood. But then something changed. As I got to the top of the hill, I was struck by the beauty of the sunrise over Lake Mendota. Looking around, I remembered just how special this place was to me and was suddenly overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude. As my watch clicked to mile 5, I knew that it was game time and I eased myself into a quicker pace. Somehow, the quicker miles weren’t feeling all that much worse than the “easy” miles and slowly but surely I started finding my way into a groove.
I didn’t really have a set route planned, so I just decided to make my run a tour of campus. I ran along the lake and by the hospital. I then looped back up by Camp Randall and the surrounding neighborhood. I was transcended in time and reminded of my long walks as an undergraduate – from the Psych building (where I sat for the LSAT) to the Comm Arts building (where I studied my major), and all of the other landmarks along University Avenue. I ran back up Johnson and passed the apartment complex that I lived at during my 1L summer when I worked at the Capitol and headed to Lake Monona.
As I came down the bike path toward Lake Monona, the slight downhill gave me a renewed sense of energy. It was still chilly out (and windy) but the air was crisp and refreshing. As I came up by the lake, I was struck by just how amazing this city was – less than half way in my run and I had already run through the vibrant downtown area and two different lakes. I headed back up toward campus and decided to repeat part of my first loop (including another trek up Bascom). This time I decided to stay on the lake trail, rather than the campus path, and was flooded with more memories. The run was getting a little more challenging (my legs were getting fatigued from all of the elevation changes) but the happiness of being back in my element far outweighed any aches and pains that I was feeling. I took the path all the way back toward the graduate student housing – but then as I attempted my turn around got lost! I was able to track my way back toward the hospital, but somehow couldn’t recreate the route I had done on my first loop. As I was nearing the end of my run, my hands were getting too cold to tie my shoes or mess with my gel packets, so I was just hoping to reorient myself so that I could start heading back toward the hotel. Luckily, I didn’t end up too far out of my way and finished my run almost perfectly. I made the mistake of stopping to catch my breath before trying to do strides (ouch!) and the soreness definitely caught up to me.
This wasn’t my strongest run. It certainly wasn’t my fastest. But it was transformative in how much my attitude turned around from start to finish. I started feeling weak and uncertain – doubting my ability to even perform the task at hand. By the end, I was confident and strong – notwithstanding any aches and pains. It wasn’t that I gave myself a pep talk or that I dug deep and channeled some inner strength that changed the course of the run. Instead, it was a change of perspective. The pain was still there. The difference was that in looking around at my old campus, my old home, my old life – I was reminded of all that I have been through (both good and bad) and just how far I have truly come…
… and if I could do that in my life, I certainly could get through a run.